Here are the top 10 non-fiction books of 2019.
10. DIPA KARMAKAR by Bishweshwar Nandi, Digvijay Singh Deo and Vimal Mohan
This fascinating memoir of Dipa’s incredible journey from Tripura, an almost forgotten sporting outpost, to Rio de Janeiro, the venue for the 2016 Olympics, and beyond, is peppered with anecdotes that make for stunning reading, and at the same time provide an incredible glimpse into what it takes, and what it took, for a sportsperson to battle against all odds and leave an indelible impression in the hearts and minds of people the world over.
Written by her coach Bishweshwar Nandi and veteran sports journalists Digvijay Singh Deo and Vimal Mohan, Dipa Karmakar: The Small Wonder is one of the most heartwarming sports biographies you’ll read this winter.
9. The First Sikh: The Life and Legacy of Guru Nanak By Nikki-Guninder Kaur Singh
A special and definitive biography of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak on the occasion of his 550th birth anniversary
The First Sikh unites rigorous scholarship with a deep love for the subject, offering fascinating insights into Guru Nanak’s life and times even as it explores key facets of Sikhism. Moreover, it shows us how Guru Nanak continues to remain relevant in a twenty-first-century reality.
8. Grey Sunshine: Stories from Teach For India by Sandeep Rai
Grey Sunshine, published by Aleph Book Company, celebrates the milestones achieved by Teach For India in the past decade and the hope for continued success ahead . The book marks the flagship authorial venture of Sandeep Rai, Chief of City Operations ac Teach For India.
India continues to battle an educational crisis of unprecedented proportions. Teach For India was founded to end educational inequality in India by creating a strong pipeline of driven, skilled talent within the educational ecosystem of this nation.
7. Rivers Remember by Krupa Ge
Floodwaters, sewage and the remains of humankind’s greed swallowed a city whole in December 2015. In the face of gross mismanagement by those in power, Chennai lost lives, homes and livelihoods.
Waters from the city’s many lakes, canals and rivers, which humans had usurped and eaten into with tar roads and concrete jungles, retraced their old routes and ate anything that came in their way. Like they did in Mumbai in 2005, Surat in 2006, Srinagar in 2014 and Kerala in 2018. As they might in Bangalore someday, or in Kolkata.
To make sense of the horror of those days, Krupa Ge spent over three years filing RTIs, reading government documents and archival material, and interviewing stakeholders, journalists and the people of Chennai. What she arrives at is the shocking truth of how masterly inactivity drowned the city, and how it could happen again. And again.
But the heart of the book is in the stories of the people, including Krupa’s own parents, who were caught up in the nightmare of the floods—of their resilience and kindness, and the faultlines of caste and class that the crisis exposed.
6. THE COURTESAN, THE MAHATMA & THE ITALIAN BRAHMIN Tales from Indian History by Manu S. Pillai
The essays in this collection open a window into India’s past, and to a world of such astonishing richness that it is surprising how much of it has been forgotten or expunged. To dip into these essays is to be absorbed in India’s story and reflect on the experiences of men and women whose lives were full of drama and action. We discover the advent of the railways, just as we learn about the history of Indian football; we hear of the hated Lord Curzon’s love of India’s monuments, even as we unravel the story of the photographer who was Jaipur’s maharajah. In the hands of a consummate historian and storyteller, these men and women speak also of the concerns and perspectives of the present, showing us what was, and what might have been.
An exhilarating journey with the author of The Ivory Throne and Rebel Sultans, The Courtesan, the Mahatma & the Italian Brahmin is a retelling of history no reader will want to miss.
5. WRITING BADLY IS EASY by Amitava Kumar
Writing Badly is Easy is a style guide for those who want to write well. It presents advice given by award-winning creative writers—including Jonathan Franzen, Jennifer Egan, Suketu Mehta, Marilynne Robinson, George Saunders and Colson Whitehead—and noted thinkers like Alain de Botton, Andrew Ross, Anna Tsing, Kathleen Stewart and Rob Nixon, as well as numerous others.
Amitava Kumar’s own essays on writing, including his collaboration with Teju Cole, demonstrate the importance of blurring the line between critical and creative writing. A manifesto for writing that is exuberant, imaginative and playful, Writing Badly is Easy will change the way you think about reading and writing, and reveal the pleasures to be had in the inventive use of language.
4. An Impeccable Spy Richard Sorge, Stalin’s Master Agent by Owen Matthews
Richard Sorge was a man with two homelands. Born of a German father and a Russian mother in Baku in 1895, he moved in a world of shifting alliances and infinite possibility.
A member of the angry and deluded generation who found new, radical faiths after their experiences on the battlefields of the First World War, Sorge became a fanatical communist – and the Soviet Union’s most formidable spy.
Never before has Sorge’s story been told from the Russian side as well as the German and Japanese. Owen Matthews takes a sweeping historical perspective and draws on a wealth of declassified Soviet archives – along with testimonies from those who knew and worked with Sorge – to rescue the riveting story of the man described by Ian Fleming as ‘the most formidable spy in history’.
3. The English Maharani by Miles Taylor
Queen Victoria was at the head of the Raj, Britain’s Indian empire, for much of her long reign. Passionately involved, she intervened in Indian politics, commissioned artists and photographers to record a landscape and people that she never saw herself, sent her sons as ambassadors to the subcontinent, and surrounded herself with the trappings of the Indian conquest, from the Koh-i-Noor diamond to her own Indian troop escort and servants.
In this new and original account, Miles Taylor charts the remarkable effects India had on the queen as well as the pivotal role she played in India. Drawing on official papers and an abundance of poems, songs, diaries and photographs, Taylor challenges the notion that Victoria enjoyed only ceremonial power and that India’s loyalty to her was without popular support. On the contrary, the rule of the queen-empress penetrated deep into Indian life and contributed significantly to the country’s modernisation, both political and economic.
2. INDIA IN THE AGE OF IDEAS Select Writings 2006-2018 Sanjeev Sanyal
Looking beyond immediate concerns and politics of the day, the essays in this volume examine and re-examine narratives in history and culture, economics and urban design to ask some truly vital questions.
India in the Age of Ideas, written over a decade and more, uses analytical tools drawn from an extraordinary array of sources—the Austrian school of economics, the philosophical framework of Complex Adaptive Systems, ancient Indian texts like the Rig Veda and Kautilya’s Arthashastra. Sanyal challenges commonly held assumptions about India and the world to offer challenging and new perspectives on how we should respond to a rapidly evolving world.
1.Around the World in 80 Trains: A 45,000-Mile Adventure by Monisha Rajesh
When Monisha Rajesh announced plans to circumnavigate the globe in eighty train journeys, she was met with wide-eyed disbelief. But it wasn’t long before she was carefully plotting a route that would cover 45,000 miles – almost twice the circumference of the earth – coasting along the world’s most remarkable railways; from the cloud-skimming heights of Tibet’s Qinghai railway to silk-sheeted splendour on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.
Packing up her rucksack – and her fiancé, Jem – Monisha embarks on an unforgettable adventure that will take her from London’s St Pancras station to the vast expanses of Russia and Mongolia, North Korea, Canada, Kazakhstan and beyond. The ensuing journey is one of constant movement and mayhem, as the pair strike up friendships and swap stories with the hilarious, irksome and ultimately endearing travellers they meet on board, all while taking in some of the earth’s most breathtaking views.
From the author of Around India in 80 Trains comes another witty and irreverent look at the world and a celebration of the glory of train travel. Rajesh offers a wonderfully vivid account of life, history and culture in a book that will make you laugh out loud – and reflect on what it means to be a global citizen – as you whirl around the world in its pages.